Woman Grinding Coffee

Artist: Jean Dubuffet (French, Le Havre 1901–1985 Paris)

Date: 1945

Medium: Plaster, oil, and tar with sand on canvas

Dimensions: 45 3/4 x 35 in. (116.2 x 88.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: In honor of Ralph F. Colin, Gift of his wife Georgia Talmey Colin, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.142

Rights and Reproduction: © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Known for his raw, childlike images that incorporate unconventional materials and his wry sense of humor, Dubuffet based Woman Grinding Coffee on his wife, Lily. The painting bears little resemblance to her; Dubuffet has flattened the head and broadened the body to completely fill the composition with her frontal figure. Her form is silhouetted against a somber background, which is actually a relief built with droppings, lumps, and furrows combined into a substance that Dubuffet described as "earth fermented by water." This approach exemplifies his concept of "art brut" (raw art), meaning art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms.